New Delhi: Opposition parties rushed to the defence of a Kargil martyr's daughter after she came under harsh criticism today from BJP members for her campaign against violence in the name of nationalism.
One BJP MP, Pratap Simha of Karnataka, compared Gurmehar Kaur to wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim, while Union minister Kiren Rijiju suggested her mind was "polluted". One person, on Facebook, threatened to rape her.
"You may not like what the person thinks but...mindless threats, trolling emanating from people whom the Prime Minister of India follows (sic). This is the worst form of state intimidation and this is not how democracies and democratic countries function," said Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari.
The 24-year-old Kaur's social media campaign, promoting free speech and condemning violence in the name of nationalism, has also won her massive support and caught the imagination of many young people.
In her campaign, she has blasted the ABVP, the RSS-aligned students wing, for instigating violence at New Delhi's Ramjas College last week.
"The brutal attack on innocent students by ABVP is very disturbing and should be stopped. It was not an attack on protesters, but an attack on every notion of democracy that is held dear in every Indian's heart.
"It is an attack on ideals, morals, freedom and rights of every person born to this nation," Kaur said in a Facebook status.
Taking on the Delhi University student, Simha tweeted, "At least Dawood did not use the crutches of his father's name to justify his anti-national stand."
To mock her, Simha also posted a photograph showing Dawood with the message, "I didn't kill people in 1993. Bombs killed them."
Rijiju also took to Twitter to take a dig at her. "Who's polluting this young girl's mind? Strong armed forces prevent a war. India never attacked anyone but a weak India was always invaded," the minister of state for Home Affairs said.
Talking to reporters, he later said, "One should not say things which could demoralise the countrymen and the forces.
Everybody has freedom but that does not mean that you raise slogans to weaken the country."
Apart from the Congress, the AAP and the CPI(M) also reacted sharply and demanded "strict action" against those who allegedly threaten to rape Kaur.
Posting a video of Kaur, where she is talking about rape threats issued to her, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "THIS is BJP. They will destroy our country. Everyone must rise against their goondaism (sic)."
"Women are afraid to speak their mind because of rape threats...Strict action against must be taken against those who threatened Kaur with rape," Atishi Marlena, a member of the AAP's political affairs committee (PAC), said.
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury attributed the alleged threat to "fascistic tendency" of the RSS and its affiliates. He demanded that the central government should ensure protection to life and liberty of individuals. "This is exactly the culture of the RSS and all its organisations. They will not allow any plurality of opinion ...this is a fascistic tendency," Yechury alleged.
Former attorney general Soli Sorabjee said, "This is scandalous. This can't be. You can't give such threats to women. This is disgraceful and must be put down with a heavy hand."
Reacting to Rijiju's tweet, Marlena said, "Who is polluting whose mind? The ABVP, through social media, is threatening women with rape. The MoS Home should not know what his priorities are when women are receiving such explicit threats."
She said, "The hooliganism which the ABVP and the BJP supporters resort to happens in the real world. But it is also happening in the virtual world.
"Sexual abuse against women is very common, women are getting rape threats and those who give such threats are being followed by senior BJP leader."